The Trap of Being Busy

08.05.2019 |

Episode #4 of the course Coping with loneliness in the modern world by Sonia Chauhan


Today, I want to talk about the culture of being busy and how it’s a contributing factor to long-term loneliness.


Why Is Everyone So Busy All the Time?

Despite having technology and machines for supporting the easiest of tasks, the modern citizen is busier than ever. We have cafés, dishwashers, airplanes, lawn mowers, and mobile phones at our disposal, yet our schedules are stuffed to the gills. Despite all the help, everyone everywhere seems to be so busy all the time. Why?

At its core, being busy makes you feel purposeful. You get this momentary feeling that your life is important. Surely, if you’re doing important things all day, your life must be important. Being busy gives you the credibility of coming across as a worthwhile person. You can go through the motions without having to confront your inner fears.

The result? People on the streets are navigating morning traffic, drinking coffee, listening to music, and typing emails, all at the same time. Walk into a café, and you’ll find people coding on their laptops, listening to a podcast, and eating a bagel simultaneously.


What’s the Problem with Being Busy All the Time?

Allow me to set up the background. The present world operates on the notion that time is money. Now, the money that can be made is infinite, but the resource of time to fit it all in is finite. So, we struggle to do much more stuff in the same amount of time because we’re trying to make our time more profitable or pleasant. This applies in two ways.

1. At work. Since we want to get a lot done in a limited period of time, we end up multi-tasking, hovering, and basically, just rushing through the day. This not only kills focus but also leaves you feeling dissatisfied because you never did any deep work.

2. At leisure. Since we work so hard, we feel the pressure to really enjoy our leisure time. Enter all the goods and services available for gratification. Ergo, you mash leisure activities together, trying to “do it all”: enjoying the beach while sipping a martini, smoking a cheroot, and chatting with your boyfriend while getting a massage. You focus so much on increasing your level of enjoyment that you lose sight of whether you did or didn’t.

Modern “busyness” sets the false expectation that many activities need to be undertaken to have quality experiences. That’s inorganic.


It’s Making You Lonely

While you may be genuinely busy with a lifestyle that requires a great deal of focus (med-school residents, financial traders, working moms, etc.), you’re also making yourself more and more inaccessible each day.

Being constantly busy without respite muddles your priorities in the long term. Slowly, you begin to feel a void when you no longer have the time for heart-to-heart conversations with friends or Sunday dinners with family. There is simply no time for soul rejuvenation; it becomes a bitter bargain.


Your Challenge

Learn to carve pockets of idleness into your routine. Start with a ten-minute pocket: Fill it with a simple task of just walking around and breathing. Increase one minute each day. This will give you a break from the habit of rushing.

Become aware. Make a note of the number of times you skip personal engagements in a month.

Invite back. Respond to those who matter to you. Make a 50-50 personal rule. Each time you refuse to meet a friend due to a commitment, invite them again within a specified timeline. Note it down in your calendar, if that helps.

Build a snooze schedule. Have an evening (or a day) of leisure without timekeeping. Spend a day without an agenda or plan an activity of leisure. The only rule: Don’t look at the time while you do it.

Tomorrow, I will talk about how technology is another contributor to our loneliness.


Recommended reading

The “Busy” Trap

Why Is Everyone So Busy?

Why You Feel Busy All the Time (When You’re Actually Not)


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